NFL reaches long-term media deals with Amazon, Disney and others

·3-min read
The NFL logo is pictured at an event in the Manhattan borough of New York City

(Reuters) - The National Football League (NFL) said on Thursday it reached long-term media deals with Amazon.com Inc and major broadcast and cable companies that run through 2033.

Amazon.com will become the exclusive partner for the league's "Thursday Night Football" games. The NFL also made deals with Walt Disney Co's ESPN and ABC networks, ViacomCBS Inc, Fox Corp and Comcast Corp.

The combined financial terms of the agreements, which will begin with the 2023 NFL season, were not disclosed but could be worth over $100 billion, CNBC reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

The new round of contracts marks the first time a streaming service will carry an exclusive package of games, for which Amazon is paying about $1 billion per year, according to CNBC.

The other networks are paying $2 billion or more per year for their packages, CNBC reported.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the deal a "seminal moment" in how the league distributes content.

"We will also enjoy the flexibility to adapt to new technology, new innovations, new viewing habits over the time where we have a media landscape that’s rapidly changing," Goodell told reporters on a conference call.

The agreements could also pave the way for NFL teams to play a 17-game regular season instead of the current 16 games.

Under the current collective bargaining agreement, at least one new media deal was required to move forward with adding one more regular-season game, which could be approved at the March 30-31 owners meeting.

"This deal obviously accommodates that and we have that ability," said Goodell. "So we'll be moving in the next two weeks to a league meeting by the end of the month and we've done a lot of work on this.

"We'll be talking to the clubs and I would expect we'd be making some decisions at the March meeting on the future of the 17 (game) restructure for the '21 season."

Sports has remained one of the biggest attractions for live viewing even as U.S. audiences are cutting their pay TV subscriptions and migrating to streaming services.

Last year, viewership of regular-season NFL games averaged about 15.4 million viewers, down by about 7%, according to Nielsen.

Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and sports content, described the deal as historic and unique.

Under the agreement ESPN will return to the Super Bowl rotation (2026, 2030), receive additional playoff games and significantly more (35% or 23 each season) regular-season contests.

"We have history of being strategic and disciplined when acquiring rights and that philosophy has not and will not change," Pitaro said on a separate conference call. "We do deals that add shareholder value and when you look at what we acquired here in game inventory, regular season, post-season, flex scheduling quality of schedule this is no exception.

"We now have more value than we ever had before."

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru, Amy Tennery and Kenneth Li in New York, Steve Keating, Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Matthew Lewis)